UPDATE 1-Russian ally Kyrgyzstan sets U.S. air base closure deadline

Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:08am EDT
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* Bishkek says U.S. base unnecessary as NATO troops leave Afghanistan

* Russia grew wary of Western military presence in Central Asia

* Kyrgyzstan committed to Russia-led regional security blocs

By Olga Dzyubenko

BISHKEK, June 20 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan on Thursday gave the United States until July next year to shut its airforce base at Manas, a staging post for U.S. troops and supplies in the Afghanistan conflict but now deemed unnecessary as foreign forces pull out.

The move is likely to please Russia as it vies with the West and China for influence in the resource-rich region, once part of Soviet Central Asia.

Troops from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, ending a costly and increasingly unpopular war launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by al-Qaeda on U.S. cities.

The Manas Transit Center outside the capital Bishkek, which numbers about 1,000 U.S. servicemen, has been in operation since the end of 2001. The Kyrgyz government said in a note issued prior to a vote in parliament: "Further functioning of this facility is unnecessary".

Parliament passed the law by 91 votes to five, setting a deadline of July 11, 2014, for the base to close.   Continued...